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Psychopathic Narcissists: Cold Empathy, Uncanny Valley

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Psychopathic Narcissists: Cold Empathy, Uncanny Valley




Cold Empathy evokes the concept of âUncanny Valleyâ, coined in 1970 by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori. Mori suggested that people react positively to androids (humanlike robots) for as long as they differ from real humans in meaningful and discernible ways. But the minute these contraptions come to resemble humans uncannily, though imperfectly, human observers tend to experience repulsion, revulsion, and other negative emotions, including fear.

The same reactive trajectory and emotional cascade apply to psychopathic narcissists: they are near-perfect imitations of humans, but, lacking empathy and emotions, they are not exactly there. Psychopaths and narcissists strike their interlocutors as being some kind of âalien life-formsâ or âartificial intelligenceâ, in short: akin to humanoid robots, or androids. When people come across narcissists or psychopaths the Uncanny Valley reaction kicks in: people feel revolted, scared, and repelled. They canât put the finger on what it is that provokes these negative reactions, but, after a few initial encounters, they tend to keep their distance.

Contrary to widely held views, Narcissists and Psychopaths may actually possess empathy. They may even be hyper-empathic, attuned to the minutest signals emitted by their victims and endowed with a penetrating "X-ray vision". They tend to abuse their empathic skills by employing them exclusively for personal gain, the extraction of narcissistic supply, or in the pursuit of antisocial and sadistic goals. They regard their ability to empathize as another weapon in their arsenal.

I suggest to label the narcissistic psychopath's version of empathy: "cold empathy", akin to the "cold emotions" felt by psychopaths. The cognitive element of empathy is there, but not so its emotional correlate. It is, consequently, a barren, detached, and cerebral kind of intrusive gaze, devoid of compassion and a feeling of affinity with one's fellow humans.

Narcissists and psychopaths also appear to be âempathizingâ with their possessions: objects, pets, and their sources of narcissistic supply or material benefits (often their nearest and dearest, significant others, or âfriendsâ and associates). But this is not real empathy: it is a mere projection of the narcissistâs or psychopathâs own insecurities and fears, needs and wishes, fantasies and priorities. This kind of displayed âempathyâ usually vanishes the minute its subject ceases to play a role in the narcissistâs or psychopathâs life and his psychodynamic processes.

(From the book "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited" by Sam Vaknin - Click on this link to purchase the print book, or 16 e-books, or 3 DVDs with 16 hours of video lectures on narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships: http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com/thebook.html)


Run time 13 minutes 34 seconds
Producer Sam Vaknin
Audio/Visual sound

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